Grass-Roots Action Directory                                                                                          News and Commentary

       Cancer Study Spurs Outcry

[The Los Angeles Times has reported] "some of the
nation's heaviest truck traffic runs through Tonia Reyes
Uranga's City Council district, humming day and night
past the tree-shaded Spanish-style bungalows of
northwest Long Beach.  So when the councilwoman
learned Friday that higher than normal cancer rates had
been found in her district, she immediately thought of
the diesel-burning trucks and the nearby seaports they
serve. The study by USC epidemiologist, Dr. Thomas M.
Mack, does not link the cancer cases directly to air
pollution; but many residents near the ports say they
have long suspected that toxic emissions are sickening
their neighbors and friends.  A review of 27 years of Los
Angeles County cancer reports determined that several
census tracts in Reyes Uranga's district are at high risk
for throat cancer.  The study also found tracts at high
risk for small-cell carcinoma of the lung and bronchus in
other parts of Long Beach and southern Los Angeles

(Reference:  Cancer Study Spurs Outcry, by Deborah
Schoch, Los Angeles Times, September 4, 2004)

Study Finds Smog Raises Death
[The Los Angeles Times] "... a study published in
the Journal of the American Medical Association
shows deaths from heart and respiratory
ailments rise on smoggy days causing several
thousand more people throughout the United
States to die each year.  At least 95 urban areas
in the United States have been identified as
severely polluted including Los Angeles, Orange,
Riverside and San Bernardino counties which
have some of the nation's worst smog,
according to the study.  Scientists have already
documented in several dozen studies around the
world that deaths increase when airborne
pollutants called particulates, or fine pieces of
soot, rise.  Particulates come mostly from diesel

( Reference:  Study Finds Smog Raises Death
Rate, by Marla Cone,  The Los Angeles Times,
Nov. 27, 2004)    

  Oil Well Pipeline Breaks in Wilmington, CA

                                                                By Jesse N. Marquez, Executive Director
                                                                Coalition for a Safe Environment

August 29, 2005

Wilmington, CA --   On Monday, August 22, at approximately 7:00 P.M., a resident of Wilmington,  Mrs. Lolie Roque,  heard a
shout and a disturbing sound coming from the injection oil well next to her home.  A pipeline had broken while a work
crew was preparing to leave for the day.    According to a neighbor across the street, another spill had occurred nearly
five years ago at the same location when gallons of oil flowed into the area.  

The next 24 hours proved to be a frightening episode as Mrs. Roque and her neighbors saw hundreds of gallons of mixed
oil, water, and sludge begin to rapidly fill the empty dirt lot.  Georgette and Rasmy Saad, neighbors living directly behind
the oil well, also became fearful when they saw the oil begin to seep under their backyard fence and into their yard.

What happened next was even more alarming as the families began to smell some type of gas and a terrible odor.     It
was so strong that Mrs. Roque stated, “I felt myself becoming very sick and began to vomit.  All of my family became dizzy
and developed headaches.   I called 911 and told the operator what happened and she transferred me to the fire
department.  They asked me to describe what happened and if there was anyone there from the oil company.   I stated
there was a work crew present.  When the fire department asked me if they should come, I really did not know how
serious it was or how to answer.”

An environmental clean-up crew arrived and worked all night to clean-up the spill.  Mr. Roque did not go to work because
he did not feel well; he also feared for the safety of his family.  Mrs. Roque stated that the noise was almost unbearable
and they could not sleep.  A company representative went door-to-door and passed out his business cards and told
everyone that the company would clean their property and replace any grass.    

By the end of the day,Tuesday, the spill was 99% cleaned-up.  While this may seem to be a good ending and a job well
done, it is troubling that the company, Warren E & P, Inc., with offices in Wilmington and Long beach, did not report the
spill either to the fire department, the fire department hazardous material emergency response division, the paramedic
ambulance service, or the local police.  They did not believe it was necessary.

The 911 call should have automatically triggered the fire department to go to the location with test equipment to assess
the fire hazard and take air samples.  The average person is not qualified to evaluate the seriousness or life threatening
potential of an oil spill or gas fumes and other toxins which may be present.  It is  doubtful that, after the fact, anyone will
open the pipeline valve to take a test sample.  The families who became ill needed paramedic services and would
certainly have gone to the hospital had agency personnel been present to instruct them.

A member of the Coalition For A Safe Environment arrived at the site early Tuesday morning to investigate the situation
and dialed the Operator for the L.A. City Fire Department.   The investigator was connected to department voice-mail and a
recording which asked the caller to leave a message.  As of today there has been no return call.  The L.A. County Fire
Department Emergency Response department was also called and they did send inspectors who determined that there
was no danger.  When one inspector was questioned if an oil sample was taken from the ground for testing, she stated
that she did not know, but said the environmental clean-up company would have a manifest when it disposed of the
removed soil.  When asked if the manifest document would have a chemical analysis of the material being disposed of,
she said that she did not think so.  The Coalition member took photos and a dirt sample for laboratory testing.  The
Coalition member also called Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s Wilmington and San Pedro offices to inform them of the
incident.  As of today there has been no return call, nor have the families been visited by any public

Contact:  Jesse N.  Marquez (      

The Environmental Relief Center
Post Box 1084
Studio City, CA 91604

 Locals to be Honored for Environmental Activism

From:  Long Beach Press-Telegram    
August 25, 2005
By:   Samantha Gonzaga
Staff writer  

Three local activists and a state senator brought more than a breath of fresh air to clean-air environmentalism. The
California League of Conservation Voters a nonpartisan group dedicated to environmental issues will honor Sen. Alan
Lowenthal and three others in the 5th Annual Sacramento Environmental Leadership Awards for their work in protecting
and improving the health of communities surrounding the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Aug. 31 ceremony
will acknowledge the efforts of Long Beach doctor Elisa Nicholas, Wilmington activist, Jesse Marquez, and Noel Park,
president of the San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners Coalition, a group that helped win one of the state's largest
environmental settlements.  "We know Sen. Lowenthal well," said Rachel Averbuck, Conservation Voters' development
director. "We respect his work and believe in what  he's done in Sacramento. The other nominees are approved by the
board and the three nominees came approved by Lowenthal himself."

Lowenthal whose 27th District covers Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lakewood, Cerritos, Artesia, Bellflower, Downey, Hawaiian
Gardens and Paramount has authored and pushed four bills that reduce diesel emissions at the ports and require them to
cover open petroleum coke piles.  When he was a member of the state Assembly, the Long Beach resident secured
money to help reduce pollution in area beaches.  His work led him to cross paths with Nicholas, Marquez and Park.

Nicholas, a pediatrician, serves as project director for the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, a coalition of
school districts, parents, teachers, health experts and activists. She also helped build up The Children's Clinic, Serving
Children and Their Families, community clinics that offer 41,000 visits to the city.

Park is a member of the Port of Los Angeles Community Advisory Committee (PCAC), a panel comprised of residents
created in 2002 with the intent of advising the port on policy issues. As part of the Homeowners Coalition, he was a part of
a grass-roots campaign that brought attention to the health hazards of diesel exhaust.

Marquez's first foray into activism began with a sound wall intended to separate a Wilmington neighborhood from what
his community group later discovered to be a six-lane diesel truck highway.   Founder of the Coalition for a Safe
Environment, his achievements include winning a successful four-year battle that gained back 96 acres of Wilmington
waterfront land from the Port of Los Angeles; banding with San Pedro residents to shut down Kinder Morgan's
pollution-heavy fuel storage facility; and most recently writing the first Port Communities Bill of Rights, which was
presented to the United Nations' International Maritime Organization.  "Jesse really represents the emerging strength and
awareness of the importance of environmental justice issues," Lowenthal said. "Frequently the community with the least
economic strength -- they're the ones greatly impacted by many kinds of pollution, whether it's air or water pollution."

                                                       Air  Pollution  at  the  Ports      

Over a period of years the injurious health impacts of air pollution in the port cities of Los Angeles
and Long Beach have come under scrutiny by medical researchers.  As port expansion continues to
accelerate, numerous studies are charting increases in the prevalence of asthma, cancer, bronchitis,
and impaired lung capacity among children and adults living adjacent to the ports.   Other studies
reveal increases in similar illnesses among those living near the trucking and rail terminals of
Riverside and San Bernardino.   Responses by city and port officials have been intermittent and slow,
emphasizing familiar hard-line practices and bottom-line policies which effectively separate the port
industries from the communities in which they operate.   Missing from annual reports are medical data
naming the harbor cities as centers of hazardous pollution; also missing are budget allocations for the
treatment of afflicted individuals and families with children.      

Local residents, now acutely aware of their communities as high-risk zones for serious illness, have
generated an explosion of appeals for new technologies, alternative fuels, and  equipment
modification and replacement.  There has also been a successful lawsuit, but local demands are often
cited as unrealistic, as conflicting with regulations which govern port revenues as well as expansion
and job development.  Port and city officials have traditionally resisted local requests for major
technological transformations claiming lack of jurisdiction over foreign vessels, rail lines, and
trucking operations.  Community pleas to eliminate local health hazards and preserve open space   
have met with massive and prolonged resistance from past administrations, port executives, and
corporate interests.     

Of late, however, a "sea" change has become apparent as the sleeping giants of "business-as-usual"
are waking to the insistent and informed voices of local grass-roots leaders and the formerly silent
and invisible residents they represent.   Now, through the availability and dissemination of medical
studies, well-organized town meetings, public forums, neighborhood councils, conservation groups,
and tireless grass-roots efforts, a new vocabulary of phrases such as "health impacts", "goods
movement", "greening the ports", air quality, and "environmental justice",  are clearly serving as
catalysts for change.   In addition, a climate of hope has been established by a newly elected mayor of
Los Angeles who has appointed a knowledgeable port director and a new board of harbor
commissioners to review "trade" policies and develop strategies to restore beaches and wetlands,
develop clean technologies,
reduce the mortality rates and relieve the crisis in public health.

In this section, The Environmental Relief Center will document the real-life dramas of local
environmental leaders as they continue to address widespread complacency and resistance, bringing
a new reality to the long-standing ideal of clean air and quality of life in the port communities of Los
Angeles County, and beyond.                                                         
                                                                                                          Peggy Forster, Director
                                                                                                                                                  The Environmental Relief Center, 2004